It was standing room only inside Holy Spirit Church in Garfield Heights on March 6 as members from more than a dozen parishes and affiliated diocesan organizations gathered for Ash Wednesday Mass and to hear revivalist Father Roy Lee.
Father Lee, from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, is dedicated to helping students and parish communities incorporate God, family, education and service to improve the quality of life.
Ash Wednesday, as Father Lee remarked, was the “red carpet, opening night” of the three-day revival, themed, “Joy in the Midst of it All.” He returns March 7 and 8 to dive deeper into how Catholics may move closer to Christ through prayer and joyous praise. The remaining two nights also include a speaker reception -- to provide attendees with a chance to talk informally with Father Lee -- and a youth night.
Cary Dabney, director for the diocesan office of ministry to African American Catholics, greeted the large crowd and encouraged everyone to let the spirit empower them not only during the evening but throughout Lent.
He surprised revival attendees when he announced, “It is a blessing to have our shepherd, Bishop Nelson Perez, joining as the celebrant for the revival Mass.” The entire congregation applauded the impromptu addition to the first night.
Dabney then thanked the diocesan Gospel Choir and musical accompaniment for their hours of preparation and practice leading into the three-day revival. The choir opened the Mass with a powerful arrangement of “All in His Hands.”
Before the first reading, Father Lee led the Litany of Saints and Ancestors. “Today we gather on the promises of Jesus,” he said. “Let us call upon those saints and in response chant, be with us.” The congregation responded enthusiastically to each invocation.
Bishop Perez thanked Father Lee and the congregation for making the commitment to attend the revival. “The theme of the revival is beautiful,” he said and explained that when there is sinfulness, Catholics should embrace the spirit of hope. “Remember, no one carries the cross alone.”
During his homily, Father Lee described the significance of the number 40 in both the Old and New Testament. From the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years to Jesus thwarting Satan’s temptations in the desert for 40 days, each was a test and insight into God’s ultimate plan. The 40 days of Lent are a similar retreat for Catholics, he said, “an opportunity to get your act together, to transform yourself ‘in the midst of it all.’”
Father Lee called the congregation to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel. “Just as he empowered the disciples during the chaos of their time, know that God is still at work doing marvelous things in you and me in the midst of our everyday lives and in the midst of the mess,” he said
Before closing, Father Lee gave direction on when to acknowledge a moment of prayer to help with transformation:
Fast from worries.
When there is pressure, pray.
When one is bitter, invite a joyous memory or do an act of joy.
If you are selfish, channel compassion.
When anger or harsh words bubble up, be silent and listen to God’s word.
“If we took this seriously,” Father Lee said, “we could transform a city and a country. Remember, the saints had a past and the sinners have a future.”
For more information on the Ministry to African American Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, click here.
To view a complete photo gallery of the revival, click here to visit the diocese Facebook page.